April 28, Patna: The lifesaving vaccine Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) which is a strong defense against pneumonia and meningitis that happens through pneumococcal bacteria became available to all children in high-income countries in 2000. However, the vaccine wasn’t rolled out in the low and middle income countries where children were most vulnerable to the diseases including pneumonia and meningitis.
As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-2016), nearly 1,78,994 children in India under-5 years died due to pneumonia. It is the leading vaccine-preventable cause of death among young children worldwide, taking 800,000 lives every year. The nationwide introduction of PCV in India is a major milestone and will enable millions of children across the country to be protected from this life-threatening illness.
After the involvement of Gates Foundation in the project in 2008, the things changed for better in India. The awareness about public health increased in the low and middle income countries. India was a priority because of its size and because it bore a significant portion of the global pneumonia disease burden.
With aim that no one should lose a child to a vaccine-preventable illness, India began the phased roll-out of PCV in 2017. After the initiative, over 90% of children born in India every year have access to the vaccine. It was possible only due to the involvement of Gates Foundation which collaborated with the country’s routine immunisation programme. So far, India has received more than 60 million doses of the vaccine.
According to a survey, around 70% of pneumonia cases in India are reported from Bihar. The under-5 mortality rate due to pneumonia in Bihar is 13%. Therefore, it was necessary that the people of Bihar must know about the importance of this vaccine and get their children inoculated. In the first phase, the vaccine was rolled out in 17 districts of the state including Araria, Begusarai, Kisanganj, Katihar, Muzaffarpur, Munger, Vaishali, Madhepura, Madhubani, Purnea, Samastipur, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Supual among others.
The vaccine is available at all the government hospitals and health centres in Bihar free of cost. In the second phase, 21 districts of Bihar administered Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) against pneumonia at the public hospitals. The first two primary doses of the vaccine were administered at 6 and 14 weeks and the booster dose at 9 months. Those children who miss the first dose at 2 months should still get the vaccine as per the doctor’s advice. The introduction of PCV vaccine in Bihar has also contributed to the reduction of the Infant Mortality rate.